By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
July 9, 2020
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two decisions on Wednesday, which were enormous wins for religious liberty.
In the consolidated cases, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel, the High Court determined by a 7-2 vote, that church-run schools cannot be forced to hire or keep in their employ teachers who don’t teach or practice the school’s faith satisfactorily.
Liberty Counsel explained, in short, the two cases:
“In both cases, two teachers at Catholic schools were required by their annual agreement and faculty handbook, to adhere to and teach the doctrine and sacraments of the Catholic Church. In both cases, at their annual review, the teachers were not offered contract renewals. They filed discrimination claims in federal district court against their former employers. The Supreme Court ruled that both schools were protected religious organizations and that the courts could not interfere with their employment decisions…”
Justice Samuel Alito provided the majority opinion, saying:
“The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this lies at the core of their mission. Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions in a way that the First Amendment does not tolerate.”
Alito was joined in the opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who authored the dissenting opinion and was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, argued that the decision “strips thousands of school teachers of their legal protections.”
The Left-leaning Los Angeles Times said, “The decision effectively closes the courthouse door to tens of thousands of teachers nationwide in religious and parochial schools who encounter workplace discrimination based on their gender, age, disability or sexual orientation that would otherwise be impermissible.”
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that he was encouraged SCOTUS “got it right on religious freedom this time.”
“To force a Christian school to secure or keep an individual as an employee who is incompetent, indifferent, or derelict in the religious institution’s teachings is absurd – absolutely absurd! Too often, ‘discrimination’ is treated as something evil in all cases, but true religion requires it. To validate, to support, to facilitate behavior or beliefs which are contrary to one’s religious beliefs is the failure to discriminate morally – something prohibited by Almighty God. The state is right to stay out of such matters.” said Rev. Creech.
In the second case, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, the Court upheld a directive from President Trump’s administration. The rule provided exemptions for religious employers from requirements to supply contraceptives or abortion-inducing drugs as a part of their employees’ health insurance plans.
During the Obama administration, churches were not required to provide such health care coverage when it ran counter to their religious convictions.
But following the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Trump administration expanded the exemptions to include a wide swath of groups that had religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.
The result was that some states sued the Trump administration over the new rule. However, the Court said the President’s administration acted appropriately.
This case was also a 7-2 ruling.
Justice Clarence Thomas authored the majority opinion, arguing:
“The only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes. And the plain language of the statute clearly allows the Departments to create the preventive care standards as well as the religious and moral exemptions.”
Justice Thomas was joined in the majority by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Kagan, and Breyer.
A concurring opinion from Justices Alito and Gorscuh, contended “the contraceptive mandate imposes a substantial burden on any employer who, like the Little Sisters, has a sincere religious objection to the use of a listed contraceptive and a sincere religious belief that compliance with the mandate (through the accommodation or otherwise) makes it complicit in the provision to the employer’s workers of a contraceptive to which the employer has a religious objection.”
Justice Ginsburg, who wrote the dissenting opinion, was joined by Justice Sotomayer. Ginsburg said, “[T]his Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets.”
But Justices Gorsuch and Alito countered in their concurring opinion with the majority, saying: “The Court has held that there is a constitutional right to purchase and use contraceptives. But the Court has never held that there is a constitutional right to free contraceptives.”
“Sometimes I shake my head and can’t believe where we are in this country. The courts over and again have neutered the state’s legislatures and the will of the people. Our most sacred and inalienable right, a right none of us can afford to lose, the right to believe and practice the tenets of one’s faith is constantly under threat. In these cases, the Left fired its cannons on that right twice. They overshot, missed, and we survived the blast. Thank God,” said Rev. Creech. “But we’re facing another election in just a short while, less than four months away, and elections have consequences. The President chooses judges on the federal level, and we vote for them on the state level. If we don’t want to lose America’s first freedom, the freedom of religion, we had better pay attention to who we are voting for…we had better get to the polls, come hell or high water, and vote, intelligently – vote biblically!”